Thursday, 2 April 2015

An old-fashioned, fun, simple, backyard birthday party

Sometimes us mums get a little competitive about birthday parties.  I think part of it is just plain old competition and one-up-man-ship.  But there's also the old, "I want my child to have things that I didn't have" train of thought too.

I've done a very cool party for my Little Big Fella.  It took weeks of planning and many nights of painting.

Last year we were in Melbourne and took him to the zoo.

So, what to do this year, when I'm working full time and haven't been planning for months???  And, every time I asked the Little Big Fella what kind of party, or even what kind of cake he wanted, he'd say 20 different things in a row.  He just doesn't have a single focus at the moment.

What to do?

What else?  Go back to my roots!

I grew up as the oldest of four kids.  We normally had other people living with us, and regularly had extra people in our home.  We didn't have much money.  My parents were budgeting to the cent every payday.

But we knew how to have a great birthday!

A surprising day
No matter what we didn't have, we always woke to a present and some kind of surprise.  Some balloons, streamers, a hand-made banner... there was always something that said, "today is a special day and we love you".

Apparently this is not the norm for some people.  But it's pretty much an essential for me!  I think if we lost everything, this would be the thing I would try my hardest to keep going.  Even when the surprise and fun of the tooth fairy, Easter Bunny and Santa Claus are gone, the surprise of a birthday remains, along with the love that it represents.

So, once I was sure the Little Big Fella was asleep, I blew up balloons and hung  them in his room and around the house.  I made a streamer door for his bedroom (hung them from a string across the top of the doorway), and piled the presents he'd received from family (and, of course, us!) on the table ready for him to find first thing in the morning.

The stash of pressies, and a pen he looks at EVERY time we go to the post office!

Opening a pressie from his grandparents

As a kid, the thing I loved most about parties was the junk food!  We didn't normally eat junk food, so a party was super exciting!

So for the Little Big Fella's 6th birthday party, we were going to have junk food!  Sausage rolls, party pies, chips, lollies, chocolate.  At the last minute I added a plate of watermelon as well.

Of course, we had to have a birthday cake!

Given the lack of direction from the Little Big Fella, I went with a "6" cake.  I made it a multi-colour butter cake.  He chose white icing, then we added some sprinkle bikkies around the outside, a few balls and stars, and some candles.

Posing with the cake, wearing the shirt Grandma made for him
Of course, we had to have fizzy drinks, given the "old-school" nature of the party, but I also supplied water.  I mean, all that sugar was going to make for some pretty thirsty kids, and I didn't have that many soft drinks!

Although we didn't have big parties as kids, we always had our best friends.  So I asked the Little Big Fella who he wanted to invite.  I was surprised by how few people he chose and realised that he's a lot like his dad in this respect - he has a few close friends, rather than lots of acquaintance-friends.

Because of the activities I had in mind, I encouraged him to invite a few more people as well ("hmmm, what about so and so?  Would you like to invite them too?").  It turns out that was a good idea, because there were a lot of activities planned for that day/weekend, so several people couldn't make it in the end.

When the Big Fella and I first got together, I was helping out in Kid's Church and helping to run a Friday night thing for kids aged about 7 to 11.  Between those and my own childhood memories, I have a seriously awesome backlog of games!  So I suggested a couple of my favourites to the Little Big Fella and we came up with a little list.

I have some great photos of the games, but I haven't asked the other parents if I can put photos of their kids online, so unfortunately I won't be sharing them here.  Hopefully, my descriptions will make decent pictures in your minds!

Once the kids started arriving, they were pretty revved up.  So we started with Captain's Coming.  I would say, "port" and they would run to one side of the yard, "starboard" and they ran to the other side.  "Captain's coming" would mean they stand to attention and give a salute.  "Scrub the decks" saw them crouched down pretending to clean the ground with an imaginary scrubbing brush.  The last instruction was "climb the rigging", where they would pretend to be climbing a rope ladder.

I made them run, get up and down, run some more, get up and down some more... you know, generally wear out a bit of that "just arrived at a party and I'm so excited" feeling!

After wearing them out we started eliminating the slowest to complete the action, then let the winner select something from the prize bowl.

Now that they were a bit worn out, we switched to the mummy game.  We split the kids into a girl's team and a boy's team, with each team getting a roll of toilet paper to wrap one of their members up like a mummy.

(Funnily enough, that required explanation!  Not your Mum-and-Dad "mummy", the Egyptian-version-of-a-zombie "mummy".)

My memory obviously wasn't great because I just gave them each a roll of the toilet paper we normally buy.  It's on the softer side and really didn't hold up to mummy duty!  They kept breaking it!  It turned out a little more frustrating than I remember from previous experience, but they had a laugh, the girls won and got their prize, and my son stood by the food table eating chips most of the time!

Now, kids need gross games sometimes.  It's a kid thing, and they love it!  So our next game was Chubby Bunnies.  Each of the kids took turns putting a marshmallow in their mouth and saying "chubby bunnies".  Without chewing or swallowing that marshmallow, they'd put in another and say, "chubby bunnies".  They continued adding another marshmallow and saying, "chubby bunnies" until they either couldn't say it anymore, or started gagging and threatening to throw up.

Cue the laughter and the icky, flying marshmallow spit!!!

We moved on to another old favourite of mine, the flour game.  You pack plain flour (a 1kg pack is about right) into a small mixing bowl, packing it down fairly firmly as you go.  Tip the flour-castle out on to a plate then balance a single lolly on top.  The kids then go around the circle cutting the flour-cake with a butter knife.  They have to cut all the way from the top to the bottom.  When someone makes the lolly fall, they have to get the lolly using only their face!

One of the boys thought he knew what the game was about and wanted to knock the lolly down.  When he eventually did (we encouraged him to let the others all have at least one turn to "cut the cake"), he informed us that it "wasn't what he expected", before ending up with a face full of flour!

Next we did some ping pong blowing, where the kids each got a straw and raced to blow their ping pong ball across the table.  We had a couple of heats because the table was so small, then we had a battle of boys versus girls (the boys cheated and won), which was really a rather gross idea because there was not just air coming out of those straws!!!

The hot food was nearly ready so we settled the kids down with the chocolate game.  This is a classic game for me and, after a slow start, the kids all enjoyed it too.

The kids sat in a circle.

In the middle of the circle was a (large) block of chocolate, unwrapped, on a plate.  Next to the chocolate was a hat, jacket, pair of gloves, and a dinner knife and fork.

The kids took turns around the circle, attempting to roll a 6 on a dice.  It turns out that sometimes getting a 6 is impossible!!!  Once someone rolled a 6, they got to put on the hat, gloves and jacket, then use the knife and fork to cut one square of chocolate at a time and eat it.  If someone else rolled a 6, the first person immediately had to stop what they were doing and take off the "accessories" so that the new person could put them on and cut a piece of chocolate at a time.

Half an hour later the chocolate was all gone, the kids were all sticky and the hot food was ready.

We had about half an hour of playing and eating.  The adults noted that the girls disappeared inside to draw and chat, and the boys ran around outside with various weapons.  Nature?  Nurture?  I don't know, but boys and girls and definitely different!

Then it was time to cut the cake, which turned out to be rather tricky because it was quite windy!  Luckily we had a number 6 sparkler, and there was no problem singing happy birthday.

The one thing the Little Big Fella specifically requested was a pinata.  Unfortunately I couldn't find anywhere to buy one locally and I'd left it too late to get one online, so I made one from a balloon and flour paste.  I painted it like a soccer ball at the Little Big Fella's request, and this year I made some adjustments.

Last year I did a Captain America shield, and while it looked great, when it came to hitting it, I discovered that I hadn't reinforced the top well enough and it didn't split and go everywhere like it should.

So this year I found a few websites that recommended putting a circle of thick cardboard in the top of the pinata (from the inside after you cut a little "door" in the side) and poking a coat-hanger-wire hook through that, then through the top of the pinata.  The "door" is also where you fill the pinata.

I put the "door" on the side of this pinata and masking taped it up before painting.  It turned out great!  The "door" was the first part to crack open, but the pinata held together long enough for each kid to have a crack at it.  We then let the birthday boy whack the life out of it before the kids (each with their own popcorn-style box) gathered up the individually wrapped lollies and trinket toys.  This was their party bag to take home.

The Clean Up
We'd put a start and finish time on the invitations, not so that we could kick people out, but so that they'd have an idea of how long we expected it to take.  We ran over by about 15 minutes.  Some people left straight after the pinata, but a few hung about to have a chat while the kids ran off some of the sugar they'd consumed.

We'd had a rubbish bin by the table so most of the stuff had been cleaned up as we went along, so now it was only a matter of collecting all the bits and pieces that needed to go inside, putting a few things in the washing machine, and attempt to get a happy, tired boy showered and in bed!

I really enjoyed doing the games, the Big Fella enjoyed doing the hot food and chatting with the parents, and most of all, the kids (especially the birthday boy) seemed to have a great time.

I hope that when he grows up, the Little Big Fella will remember this birthday (and maybe others like it) with fondness, and remember that a birthday party doesn't have to be fancy or expensive to be great fun.

No comments:

Post a Comment